Opinion: The RS 3 is The Ultimate Expression of Audi

Audi RS3 and Ur-Quattro

The Audi RS 3 ties the company’s present back to its roots, producing small sedans and hatches with giant-killing performance.

I’ll admit to getting sentimental occasionally about my old Audi 4000S. Part of that is because it entered my life at a pivotal moment. But part of it is that it was a genuinely good car that I greatly enjoyed.

It doesn’t help that auto manufacturers have practically stopped making coupes and sedans. We live in the era of the crossover and while the CUV may be a practical mode of transportation, I won’t ever buy one for the sake of it being fun to drive. As for the practical aspect, I’ve hauled a 20-foot extension ladder sticking out of the sunroof of a Porsche 924. The convertible I currently own was pressed into impromptu service to carry a tree and four boxwood bushes home from Costco.

I don’t need or want a crossover. What I want is a small sedan or hot hatch, something that slays Ford Mustangs for breakfast and lunches on BMW M cars. Something that makes a good noise, fun, and makes every drive an opportunity for mischief. There’s no way I’m getting that in a Porsche Macan or Audi SQ5. But fortunately, Audi does make what I’m talking about in the form of the RS 3.

RS3 and Ur-Quattro

The RS 3 Takes Audi Back to Its Roots

Audi started out making staid sedans like the Audi 100 and Audi 80/Fox. They were good, solid if unremarkable cars that sold well and gave Audi a foothold in the U.S. market. Then an Audi engineer by the name of Jörg Bensinger got the idea to fit the 80 with the four-wheel drive from a VW Iltis. From there the Quattro was born and Audi was literally off to the races.

The success of the Ur-Quattro led Audi to produce all-wheel drive sedans and hatches like the 4000S. From there it’s a direct line to the Audi 80/90 and A4. As Audi and the A4 moved upmarket into the luxury segment, they launched the A3. In fact, both the Audi 4000 and A3 are similar in size with their dimensions being within a few inches of one another. And while the A4 is a direct descendent of the Ur-Quattro and 4000S, the A3 better captures the essence of the original cars and the RS 3 takes the fun to a whole new level.

2022 RS3

Today’s RS 3 keeps Audi firmly connected to its roots. Other vehicles in Audi’s lineup may sell in higher volumes and cars like the Audi TT, and R8 may get more attention but the RS 3 is at the core of Audi’s identity. No other car in their lineup combines Quattro all-wheel drive with the inline-five cylinder so well. And no other Audi sedan has the same terrier-like personality that will eagerly chase supercars around the Nurburgring. It’s a supercar in a small sedan body, one that’s sculpted like a welterweight boxer and punches above its weight class. But what makes it genuinely appealing is the ridiculous levels of fun.

We Need More Cars Like the Audi RS 3

2022 Audi RS3 Drift

We hear all the time about the perils of distracted driving. People on cell phones, texting, and fiddling with complicated infotainment screens. Some cars even let you play video games on their built-in displays and until recently would let you do so while driving. Many safety advocates say we need more automation and self-driving capabilities.

I disagree.

What we need is more fun in our driving. People like to be entertained and the bar for that entertainment is set pretty low. If we can spend hours playing Mario Kart on our phones, there’s no reason we can’t enjoy driving. But to enjoy driving we need cars that are enjoyable to drive. We need cars like the Audi RS 3.

Photos: Audi USA

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Mark Webb is fascinated by anything automotive and particularly loves cars that are unusual or have a good story. He’s owned a variety of cars from 60’s muscle, Japanese imports, and oddities like a VW Thing and Porsche 924. After 20 years in the automotive and tech industries, he’s a walking encyclopedia of car info and is always on the lookout for his next project or a good road trip.

Past Legends Look Toward Future of Audi Quattro

Audi RS e-tron GT

With rally legends Stig Blomqvist and Fabrizia Pons, Audi DTM driver Nico Muller explores quattro’s past and future.

In 1980, Audi made a life-changing move for itself by introducing the quattro system to the world. No longer would all-wheel drive be the domain of trucks and agriculture. Now, passenger cars could use all corners to provide greater control on the road. Combined with high-performance, turbocharged engines, the new quattro carved a path for all cars to consider taking going forward.

In 2021, Audi’s quattro is now part of the electrification revolution in the overall auto industry. As a tribute, Audi’s YouTube channel enlisted their DTM driver, Nico Muller, to go back to where it all began: France’s Col de Turini. Of course, he wouldn’t be alone on this journey.

Audi Quattro

“Beginning of the Eighties, first ’82, you couldn’t believe the difference with two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive,” said rally legend Stig Blomqvist. “It was really nice, and the feeling was fantastic. I think Audi has done a good job before they started rallying because they wanted to show the rest of the world what four-wheel drive can do. Everybody was thinking, ‘Okay, it’s another Jeep system.’ But they soon find out it was a lot better than that.”

Blomqvist is one of a few to wield the might of the quattro in the Group B era. Through the ur-Quattro, Audi would not only rack up wins and records, but upend rallying forever with all four of its wheels. And what happens on race day translates to the showroom.

Audi RS e-tron GT

“In a combustion engine car, you have a single motor” said Audi Formula-E champion Lucas di Grassi. “You need a very complicated and sophisticated mechanical distribution with differentials and drive shafts to get this power and torque distributed in the four wheels.”

With the RS e-tron GT, computers and electric motors handle the job. Thus, performance is maximized. Blomqvist says the electric Audi outperforms his Group B terror. That’s certainly saying something.

Audi Quattro

“We had such a huge passion,” said rally legend Fabrizia Pons. “It didn’t matter at all how many nights we were not sleeping, and we were working, working, working. It’s important, the commitment. It’s important to know the car.”

Pons says her role as half of the first all-women rally duo with Michele Moulton didn’t hit her at first. Only years later did it occur to her how momentous and historic it was. She adds she’s always working toward the future, then and now, an attitude Audi knows well, especially with quattro.

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Cameron Aubernon’s path to automotive journalism began in the early New ’10s. Back then, a friend of hers thought she was an independent fashion blogger.

Aubernon wasn’t, so she became one, covering fashion in her own way for the next few years.

From there, she’s written for: Louisville.com/Louisville Magazine, Insider Louisville, The Voice-Tribune/The Voice, TOPS Louisville, Jeffersontown Magazine, Dispatches Europe, The Truth About Cars, Automotive News, Yahoo Autos, RideApart, Hagerty, and Street Trucks.

Aubernon also served as the editor-in-chief of a short-lived online society publication in Louisville, Kentucky, interned at the city’s NPR affiliate, WFPL-FM, and was the de facto publicist-in-residence for a communal art space near the University of Louisville.

Aubernon is a member of the International Motor Press Association, and the Washington Automotive Press Association.

Hannu Mikkola’s Record-Breaking Run in the Quattro S1 E2 is INSANE!

Hannu Mikkola - Audi Quattro S1 E2

Documentary looks back on late rally legend Hannu Mikkola’s record-setting run at the 1985 1000 Lakes Rally Finland in the Quattro S1 E2.

When one thinks of Audi and rallying, it’s usually of the Quattro upending the old order. Guided by the likes of Michele Moulton, Walter Rohl and Stig Blomqvist, the all-wheel-drive missile dug its wheels deep into the earth to take several wins in the Group B era.

Another name to make their mark with the Quattro? The late Hannu Mikkola, who left this world for Valhalla in late February 2021. A short documentary by amjayes2 recounts one of Mikkola’s greatest moment during the 1985 1000 Lakes Rally Finland, made possible by the Quattro S1 E2.

Hannu Mikkola - Audi Quattro S1 E2

“When I drove with the S1 in Ouninpohja,” said Mikkola, “I had some engine issues, and we had gone off losing some time. In a fury state of mind, I though, ‘Let’s drive this home stage as well as we can.’ That went so fast with these powerful cars, it felt like you weren’t sitting in the car anymore, as if you were outside of it all.”

Packing up to 500 horsepower with a top speed of 137 mph, the Quattro S1 E2 howled, roared and chirped with a fury befitting the demonic chaos of Group B. Before Mikkola could reach the summit at the Ouninpohja stage, though, he and co-pilot Arne Hertz needed to survive all the 1000 Lakes threw at them.

Hannu Mikkola - Audi Quattro S1 E2

“Engine wouldn’t start,” Mikkola told an interviewer in the middle of the second day of the rally. “The organizers washed the cars with the pressure washers, wetting the engine and the power distributor, resulting in not starting.”

After losing a rear wing to some young trees at the first stage of the first day, the engine issue also resulted in a 30-second penalty. The organizers tried to add another minute to the penalty, which would’ve made things more difficult. The extra minute would be withdrawn, though, leaving the rally itself to deal more of its own punishment upon the Quattro.

Hannu Mikkola - Audi Quattro S1 E2

“Driving in Ouninpohja demands a lot of courage and a big heart,” Mikkola would say years later. Two attempts through failing brakes and a big oil leak later, he set the stage record: 11 minutes, 35 seconds. His average speed? Around 80 mph.

Alas, the record would be Mikkola’s greatest triumph at Rally Finland. Following two more stage wins, he’d never again win another, retiring after the death of fellow legend Henri Toivonen at the 1986 Corsica Rally. Yet, for one brief moment in time, Mikkola and his Quattro left a mark upon the world that will never, ever be forgotten.

Click HERE to join the AudiWorld forums!

Cameron Aubernon’s path to automotive journalism began in the early New ’10s. Back then, a friend of hers thought she was an independent fashion blogger.

Aubernon wasn’t, so she became one, covering fashion in her own way for the next few years.

From there, she’s written for: Louisville.com/Louisville Magazine, Insider Louisville, The Voice-Tribune/The Voice, TOPS Louisville, Jeffersontown Magazine, Dispatches Europe, The Truth About Cars, Automotive News, Yahoo Autos, RideApart, Hagerty, and Street Trucks.

Aubernon also served as the editor-in-chief of a short-lived online society publication in Louisville, Kentucky, interned at the city’s NPR affiliate, WFPL-FM, and was the de facto publicist-in-residence for a communal art space near the University of Louisville.

Aubernon is a member of the International Motor Press Association, and the Washington Automotive Press Association.

700 HP Audi Quattro S1 E2 Sounds Like a VELOCIRAPTOR!

Mikkola Audi Quattro S1 E2

Once part of late Finnish rally driver Hannu Mikkola’s team, Quattro S1 E2 lived a successful second life in the British hill climb scene.

Though Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive helped place Ingolstadt in the spotlight back in the Eighties, it was the ur-Quattro itself that made the company a household name. It certainly arrived at the right time, too, right at the start of rallying’s Group B era. Once the Quattro placed all four of its wheels deep into the ground, it set a standard all competitors would follow to this day. And when those small engines made huge power through turbos, superchargers, and sometimes both, sending that power to all corners was a foregone conclusion.

What happens when those beasts leave the big stage, though? For one Quattro S1 E2, running up a few hills seemed to be in order. HillClimb Monsters recently unearthed rare footage of the Audi, run in the British hill climb scene by the late Tom Hammond.

Mikkola Audi Quattro S1 E2

“One of the most beloved HillClimb Monsters to ever compete in the UK,” HillClimb Monsters says, “this was Tom Hammond’s Audi Quattro S1 E2, an ex-Hannu Mikkola works unit, which the late Mr. Hammond campaigned for a number of years in the British HillClimb scene, beating plenty of ‘Closed Car’ Records at the time.”

The late Mikkola started his rallying career in various makes before jumping to Audi’s factory team in 1981. By 1983, he and co-driver Arne Hertz won the WRC World Championship, making Mikkola the oldest driver to win the crown to this day.

Mikkola Audi Quattro S1 E2

“With the 2.1L 5 Cylinder Turbo Engine producing upwards of 700Hp at its peak and weighing little over 1000Kg, it had the Pikes Peak Version bodywork fitted and certainly was a sight to behold,” Hillclimb Monsters said.

As for how Hammond acquired this Quattro, DriveTribe said he was shopping for a road-legal version in Germany when he spotted Mikkola’s ride. However it happened, Hammond returned to the U.K. “in style” with the Group B terror, and its tow vehicle.

Mikkola Audi Quattro S1 E2

It’s not often one sees a beast like this Quattro in public, let alone hear it. Let us all be thankful this footage exists to remind us how cool such Group B terrors truly were.

Photo: DriveTribe

Click HERE to join the AudiWorld forums!

Cameron Aubernon’s path to automotive journalism began in the early New ’10s. Back then, a friend of hers thought she was an independent fashion blogger.

Aubernon wasn’t, so she became one, covering fashion in her own way for the next few years.

From there, she’s written for: Louisville.com/Louisville Magazine, Insider Louisville, The Voice-Tribune/The Voice, TOPS Louisville, Jeffersontown Magazine, Dispatches Europe, The Truth About Cars, Automotive News, Yahoo Autos, RideApart, Hagerty, and Street Trucks.

Aubernon also served as the editor-in-chief of a short-lived online society publication in Louisville, Kentucky, interned at the city’s NPR affiliate, WFPL-FM, and was the de facto publicist-in-residence for a communal art space near the University of Louisville.

Aubernon is a member of the International Motor Press Association, and the Washington Automotive Press Association.